A painter, musician, author, poet, and filmmaker, Billy Childish is one of Britain’s most radical and influential artists today. Known for his explicit and prolific Expressionist paintings, he has spent 35 years of his career creating music, writing, and producing visual art forms that shake the status quo.
Over the years, Childish has worn many hats. Founding member of the Medway Poets and leader of the Pop Rivets, he went on to produce an enormous body of work, which he continues to add to today. Here, we’ll take a deep dive into who Billy Childish is and the Stuckism movement he co-created.
Who is Billy Childish?
Born in Kent in 1959, Billy Childish struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia throughout his childhood and left school at age 16. He then apprenticed as a stonemason for six months, during which time he produced over 600 drawings. These drawings went on to earn him a place at St. Martin’s School of Art (where he quit after a month, and rejoined two years later), but was eventually expelled for his ‘unruly’ behaviour and his refusal to paint.
Around this time, Childish would explore many other art forms, releasing music, writing poetry, and of course, painting. His work addresses a range of social, political, and personal issues including his own history of childhood abuse and his struggles with addiction.
From figurative paintings to landscapes, Childish’s work draws on influences from French and Dutch Impressionists and Expressionist painters such as Van Gogh and Edvard Munch, taking a subtle and unpretentious approach to his paintings. Despite his influences and close association with artists in the YBA scene, he staunchly refused connection to any particular movement since he left the one he co-founded, the Stuckism movement.
What is the Stuckism Movement?
Along with artist Charles Thompson in 1999, Childish founded the Stuckism movement, an art group whose name originates from an insult his ex-girlfriend Tracy Emin gave him as she told him he was “Stuck, stuck, stuck!” when it came to his artwork.
Together, he and Charles wrote The Stuckists Manifesto, which stated that Stuckism was a “quest for authenticity” and iterated the importance of painting as a medium.
At its heart, Stuckism is an anti-conceptual rebuttal of the twentieth century Modernism movement, which the official Stuckism website claims has become: “an increasingly fragmented, isolated, material-obsessed and stultifying academia, existing not by virtue of the work but institutional and financial power, flattered by critical acquiescence.”
When asked about the importance of such art movements and why they are needed in an interview with trakMARX, Billy said that “People need movements to help them think - then you should drop it.” This is exactly what he did, as he went on to leave the Stuckism movement only two years after its inception, but states that he still recognises the content of their manifestos.
Today, Stuckism has grown into an international art movement which is represented by over 100 independent groups around the world.
Billy Childish is an eclectic character whose figurative and expressive works still make an impressive impact on fans and collectors today. Although he has left the Stuckism movement, his legacy still remains with staunch followers adhering to the art movement all around the globe.
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